The completely correct guide to eating and drinking on a flight
Travel Tips / 4 February 2020, 3:30pm / Natalie B. Compton
Washington - Before a recent flight across the country, I bought a shawarma wrap at the airport to take into the cabin.
At the time, it seemed like a brilliant idea: I knew I'd get hungry, and this Lebanese place looked good for an airport fast-casual spot. A chicken wrap would be much more satiating than whatever dry snacks would be offered for purchase.
The minute I pulled the shawarma out on the plane, I realized my huge mistake. I hadn't accounted for my wrap's fiercely potent aroma. It hadn't smelled particularly fragrant on the ground, but now, things were different.
Enjoy: A clean eating surface by bringing wipes
Shanie Peralta, an Association of Flight Attendants-CWA member, strongly recommends that passengers bring disinfecting wipes in their carry-on for tray tables. Give that thing a good wipe-down, because it doesn't get cleaned every day.
"There's a lot of things that happen on these tray tables," Peralta says. "People change diapers on these tray tables. That happens a lot, more than people think."
Avoid: Bringing pungent items
This should really be rule No. 1, but the tray-table thing was so unnerving, we had to start there. Anyway, the First Commandment of plane eating is: Thou shalt not bring strong-smelling food on a plane. Flying is already stressful and uncomfortable. There's no policy about bringing on aromatic food; however, that doesn't mean on your flight to Phoenix, you should crack into fermented shark.
Avoid: Eating "loud" foods
Before you start chomping into that perfectly crisp Fuji apple, consider the travellers with misophonia, a disorder that triggers physical and emotional responses to sounds like chewing, tapping and gum-snapping. But beyond them, the sound of gnawing on that fruit, or on corn nuts, or carrots can be just plain obnoxious to everyone.
Avoid: Digging into messy foods and opening fizzy drinks
Eat clean, and we don't mean a plant-based, minimally processed diet. We mean: Don't go crazy with foods or drinks that run the risk of getting all over while you're smashed next to strangers in a small space.
That means Nature Valley granola bars, big bowls of soup, chips and salsa. Beware of exploding carbonated beverages like kombucha or sparkling water.
Travelling with a toddler? They're the worst - in terms of messes
"Toddlers are the biggest offenders," Peralta says. "They fuss and throw, and you find all sorts of interesting things under the seat. You have crushed chocolate chip cookies on the ground, and chocolate smeared on the seat. It's a mess."
Enjoy: A minimalist approach to dining
Flying in economy requires some spatial awareness. Your seat is small. Your tray table is small. Your legroom is small. Clutter catches up with you fast. You're going to be eating your meal while trying not to elbow your neighbours, like you're playing the board game Operation.
Don't bring a bunch of condiments, an array of cutlery, or a cornucopia of containers and expect the eating experience to go smoothly. If you must use those artisanal cocktail kits, keep them close to you and make sure you're not accidentally zesting your neighbours with garnish.
Avoid: Bringing common allergens on a flight
People can get sick from coming into contact with ingredients like peanuts and shellfish. Do vulnerable passengers a solid, and leave those foods for another occasion.
Avoid: Drinking alcohol you brought
In other words: "If we didn't serve it to you, you can't have it," Peralta says.
Enjoy: A few cocktails, but don't get drunk
Get drunk before you cross the jet bridge, and you could be denied the opportunity to board. Get drunk on the flight and cause problems, and you could end up getting the plane grounded, facing legal ramifications and paying fines in the tens of thousands of dollars.
Know your limit
Avoid: Leaving trash in the seat pocket or on the floor.
You'll have to dispose of your food waste somewhere. Don't be one of the many, many people who tucks their trash under the seat and leaves.
"We'd rather you give it to us than put it on the floor," Peralta says. "We can go through the cabin a hundred times [collecting trash], and you still will find all these bags of Subway, McDonald's, everything under the seat."
Leaving litter behind slows down the cleaning process and could delay the next flight. Every banana peel you smush into the seat back pocket is more time and work for someone else. If you're embarrassed to hand the flight attendant your mountain of trash, you're bringing too much stuff.
"You can't be getting a family meal at KFC and giving me all that trash," says Peralta, "because our trash cans are not that big."
Do right by cleaning crews and carry on small, disposable items. Throw them away with the flight attendants who come through to collect trash.